Building A Case With A Product Manager At-Law

Sameena enters the office prepped like she’s walking into a courtroom.

She has a plan to triage the needs of Roadmunk’s customers, her team and her stakeholders. She’s heard the arguments from all sides and is ready to defend complex, integrated decisions that will affect the future of the entire product management community. Roadmunk’s attorney-turned-product manager Sameena Velshi isn’t taking any nonsense. Where on earth did we find her?

What may seem like an unconventional transition to some was actually a fluid, goal-driven career move for Sameena:

“A lot of the skills in legal training are similar for product,” she says. “It’s all about distilling information.”

Just a year after she became an attorney-at-law for both the State of New York and the Law Society of Upper Canada, Sameena was working for Outside Intelligence Inc., a search application startup based in Toronto. It was under the mentorship of Outside’s CEO Dan Adamson – formerly an architect at Microsoft – that Sameena learned the ins-and-outs of product management and received what she describes as her “entire education in startups, software development, and technology.”

Ask the right questions to find the truth

Product managers compile vast amounts of data through developer feedback and communication apps like Intercom, and lawyers do the same with dates and facts to build compelling cases. Sameena thrives in process. As a law student she articled for an intellectual property firm, drafting software patents meticulously. But the data collection is the easy part, she says. The difficulty lies in deciding which areas to focus on.

“It’s all about distilling information.”

As product manager, Sameena has to ask provocative questions every day that lead her closer to a single product truth within Roadmunk:

  • What’s the most important use case for the product right now?
  • Which feature updates do we prioritize to help the sales team close as quickly as possible?
  • How can I help the developers with backlog issues to keep them moving forward?
  • How do we reduce our technical debt?
  • How do I translate this massive collection of feedback into something actionable for everyone?

Asking insightful questions helps Sameena acts as a buffer for Roadmunk’s development team, simplifying the data and distilling it into a single story for the group.

Data on trial

So there’s the data-crunching side to product management, finding a single product truth from it — but how does that truth interface with the rest of the team? How do product requirements / customer feedback / design tests translate into a new feature for a tool like Roadmunk?

“You can’t do anything without seeing the world the way your users see it, for example,” she says. ”With our customers we know what kind of data to be searching for.”

It was Sameena’s user-focused, empathetic approach to defining product strategy that’s helped Roadmunk build smart and build fast. She spends hours debating all sides of a feature design with different groups to collect the most detailed use case possible. Everyone at Roadmunk knows that feeling, walking out of a meeting with Sameena.

“At the end of the day, no one should walk away from a team meeting feeling they’ve lost. Everybody owns product, and we all add to its growth.”

Let the evidence show…

She’s always looking to expand the product. After six months engaging users of the app, Sameena knows that Roadmunk has a long way to go and the potential is endless. Users have shared a wealth of innovative cases with Roadmunk’s support and product teams.

“As our user base grows, we’re seeing a major opportunity for market expansion.”

“For the first two years we’ve been focused on product roadmapping–which is very specific–and it’s about to become really exciting as Roadmunk can be employed in a number of other management and planning applications,” she says. “As our user base grows, we’re seeing a major opportunity for market expansion.”

The app’s ultimate goal is alignment and transparency, something that Sameena believes will be used by everyone. Going by her own data, Sameena’s product management intuition is telling her that Roadmunk’s story is only getting started.

“I want Roadmunk to be the next whiteboard,” she says. “The shared place where people come together to plan the future.”